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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

And return to the Frank dynasty founded by Chlodwig


The

laws of the still pagan Thuringians and Saxons, in Germany, did not differ materially from those of the Christian Franks. Justice was administered in assemblies of the people, and, in order to secure the largest expression of the public will, a heavy fine was imposed for the failure to attend. The latter feature is still retained, in some of the old Cantons of Switzerland. In Thuringia and Saxony, however, the nobles had become a privileged class, recognized by the laws, and thus was laid the foundation for the feudal system of the Middle Ages.

The transition was now complete. Although the art, taste and refinement of the Roman Empire were lost, its civilizing influence in law and civil organization survived, and slowly subdued the Germanic races which inherited its territory. But many characteristics of their early barbarism still clung to the latter, and a long period elapsed before we can properly call them a civilized people.

CHAPTER IX.

THE KINGDOM OF THE FRANKS.

(486--638.)

Chlodwig, the Founder of the Merovingian Dynasty. --His Conversion to Christianity. --His Successors. --Theuderich's Conquest of Thuringia. --Union of the Eastern Franks. --Austria (or Austrasia) and Neustria. --Crimes of the Merovingian Kings. --Clotar and his Sons. --Sigbert's

Successes. --His Wife, Brunhilde. --Sigbert's Death. --Quarrel between Brunhilde and Fredegunde. --Clotar II. --Brunhilde and her Grandsons. --Her Defeat and Death. --Clotar II.'s Reign. --King Dagobert. --The Nobles and the Church. --War with the Thuringians. --Picture of the Merovingian Line. --A New Power.

[Sidenote: 500. THE MEROVINGIAN DYNASTY.]

The history of Germany, from the middle of the sixth to the middle of the ninth century, is that of France also. After having conducted them to their new homes, we take leave of the Anglo-Saxons, the Visigoths and the Longobards, and return to the Frank dynasty founded by Chlodwig, about the year 500, when the smaller kings and chieftains of his race accepted him as their ruler. In the histories of France, even those written in English, he is called "Clovis," but we prefer to give him his original Frank name. He was the grandson of a petty king, whose name was Merovich, whence he and his successors are called, in history, the _Merovingian_ dynasty. He appears to have been a born conqueror, neither very just nor very wise in his actions, but brave, determined and ready to use any means, good or bad, in order to attain his end.

Chlodwig extinguished the last remnant of Roman rule in Gaul, in the year 486, as we have related in Chapter VII. He was then only 20 years old, having succeeded to the throne at the age of 15. Shortly afterwards he married the daughter of one of the Burgundian kings. She was a Christian, and endeavored, but for many years without effect, to induce him to give up his pagan faith. Finally, in a war with the Alemanni, in 496, he promised to become a Christian, provided the God of the Christians would give him victory. The decisive battle was long and bloody, but it ended in the complete rout of the Alemanni, and afterwards all of them who were living to the west of the Rhine became tributary to the Franks.


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